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Archive for Sunday, March 24, 1996

ONLINE LIFTS THE BOTTOM LINE

March 24, 1996

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Local companies are doing business internationally and nationwide through the Internet.

Phil Anderson jumped online six months ago.

Anderson, president of Kantronics Company Inc., said joining the computer revolution was one of the best things he's ever done for the 16-year-old company, a Lawrence-based firm that manufactures radio equipment worldwide.

Jumping online entailed creating a World Wide Web page and having access to the Internet, the newest communications pool that many businesses are diving into.

"You can apply the Internet to almost every aspect of your business," the Lawrence native said.

From marketing to corporate planning to after-sales service, the Internet can be a productive tool for businesses, he told a group of local business people during a recent Kansas International monthly seminar.

A time-saver

The Internet can speed up the process when working with suppliers and vendors. In fact, some of the vendors who work with Anderson are using the Internet to put up-to-date inventory numbers and prices online to eliminate the hassle of sending orders through the mail.

Also, answering service questions via electronic mail avoids expensive long-distance phone calls and is faster that speaking on the telephone.

"If you've got a guy who's been out of town for a couple days and comes back to find 30 to 40 to 50 questions from customers that need to be answered, it will take him about one hour to do it online. If he gets on the phone, it will take him a lot longer," Anderson said.

Anderson said the Internet is also important to small companies offering products or services locally.

"It's very, very workable for the smaller companies," he said.

And many Lawrence companies are experimenting for the first time with the Internet this year.

Ted and Rita "Peach" Madl, owners of The Sandbar, a downtown bar at 117 E. Eighth, originally designed their new Web page so that they could monitor the business while they were not at work. Rita Madl and some friends designed a World Wide Web page that includes a continual video image of the bar.

"I take a laptop computer wherever I go, so now I can plug into a phone line and see if the place is busy or not," Rita Madl said.

The experimental page idea, which has been online for about two weeks, has increased business and gained recognition throughout the region. In fact, the Madls and their friends and relatives who helped design the page are hoping to market the video idea to other businesses.

"We thought a live picture would be a fun way for customers to take a look into the bar and see who's here," she said.

The page has gained attention from computers users in Oklahoma, Nebraska and Colorado, and has encouraged out-of-town visits.

"We had a group of doctors from Oklahoma call and say they were coming by because they had seen us on the Web so many times," Rita Madl said.

Getting a jump

Company owners admit they aren't sure what the future of the Internet is for businesses, but many are testing the new computer system seeking its benefits.

Eastons Ltd., 839 Mass., a locally owned men's clothing store, joined a group of other retailers nationwide in a fashion mall on the World Wide Web. Organized groupings of similar products or services are cropping up on the Web to better serve computer shoppers.

The fashion mall is a site on the Web where shoppers choose from categories, such as men's or women's clothing. If you select men's clothing, you can view Eastons' shoes and shirts in color photographs.

The store has received orders from Japan, Germany, Brazil, Costa Rico as well as the United States.

"This is giving us more exposure internationally," said Scott Dalrymple, sales associate. "We're not doing a high volume of sales on the Web, but we wanted to get on as early as we could because we anticipate it to be the wave of the future for businesses."

Loris Brubeck, president of Jim Clark Motors, 2121 W. 29th Ter., started a Web page this month to offer customers who want to shop at home access to the car dealership's sales inventory. Pre-owned automobiles will be featured on the page along with information and prices.

"There are a lot of people interested in doing business this way, and we want to be there to satisfy their needs," Brubeck said.

The dealership owner said he thought the cost for a Web page is fair, considering the potential for a large consumer market and the quality of the color page. But he said he is still testing the new technology.

"I think there is a genuine public interest and the price is fairly economical, but only time will tell," he said.

Internet providers, national computer giants, telephone companies and a slew of other businesses are working at full speed to craft better communications on the Internet, better images and a number of other developments.

While the frenzy continues for the next several months, Peter Lundquist, web editor for the Lawrence Journal-World's On-Line Services, advises companies to familiarize themselves with the Internet and the Web and to begin experimenting with the new worldwide market.

"In about a year or so the Internet will truly be a place of commerce," Lundquist said. "It is important now for businesses to get educated, so that when it does get viable, they won't be scrambling to get online."

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